You might have clicked this article out of interest, but still be wondering why you would want to work out with a single dumbbell. Surely two would be better? Or a barbell? Or an entire gym where there’s a wide range of equipment?
Well, in fact, there are a wide range of benefits you can get from training with just one weight.
First and foremost, it’s more practical. If you haven’t got much space in your house, then just keeping one dumbbell or a selection of dumbbells in varying weights means your fitness equipment isn’t clogging up your house. Because of this, it’s very easy to get in a workout form the comfort of your own home. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy the gym, can’t afford the membership or simply doesn’t have time to travel to and from there each week, then straight-forward workouts like these allow for your fitness to fit in and around your life as opposed to the other way around.
It’s also extremely cheap. You don’t need to invest in expensive racks, treadmills, or other machines and devices. At the very least you only need one dumbbell, but as you progress you might want to invest in more as you might be stronger in some movements. However, the most you’re going to be spending is around $100. A treadmill averages between $1000-3000 and a rack is around the lower limits of that.
Lastly, it allows for you to notice and address any weaknesses. So often we can become consumed by our training and build up imbalances without even noticing. Training with one weight can help you to figure out whether one side of your body is a little bit stronger than the other before building them up to be equal.
Today, we’re going to look at 10 simple exercises you can do with just one dumbbell to train your entire body. At the end, there will be a workout you can complete to get into shape.
1. Bench Press
The first movement trains your chest, shoulders and triceps all at the same time. This is one of the most common places people find that they have an imbalance due to rounding or hunched shoulders and favouring one arm in everyday life.
To complete the dumbbell bench press, lie with your back on a bench and feet flat on the floor. Start with the dumbbell in line with the bottom of your chest but to the side so it’s not resting on your torso. Make sure that your elbow is underneath your wrist, and then push upwards so that the dumbbell is extended out in front of you. Lower it back to the starting position before repeating once more.
2. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian deadlift is a variation on the normal deadlift that’s easier to complete with dumbbells. It hits the glutes and lower back, but you’ll feel the most activation in your hamstrings. Make sure to maintain a neutral spine throughout the entire movement by engaging your abs and lower back.
Start in a standing position with your feet placed hip width apart. Holding the dumbbell in one hand, bend your knees slightly and slide the weight down your thigh. Make sure not to bend your knees too much. The aim of this movement is to hinge at the hips to stretch out the hamstrings. Once you feel a stretch, pull back up to the starting position.
3. Hip Thrust
To make your glutes really pop, the hip thrust is the perfect movement for the job. Many people, especially men, neglect training their glutes or think that they’ll get big just from squatting. In fact, the glutes are one of the strongest muscles in the body and therefore, training them specifically can help with a variety of exercises. Not to mention, who doesn’t want a shapely rear to slide into their jeans?
Begin with your back lying down against a mat with the bottoms of your feet flat against the floor. Your thighs and shins should make an equal sided triangle with the floor. Place the dumbbell against your pelvis. If this hurts, then you can put a cushion or tea towel underneath. Next, whilst holding the dumbbell with both hands so that it doesn’t fall, engage your glutes to create a straight line between your shoulders, hips and knees. Return to the starting position before repeating.
4. Dumbbell Rows
If you want your back to get stronger, then including rows in your training is a must. Rows hit every single area of your back: your lats, traps, rhomboids and rear delts. As well as this, they’ll also include your biceps. Combining these with the bench press provides a great upper body workout.
Start with the weight on the floor next to the bench. Placing one knee on the bench, maintain a neutral spine that’s parallel to the floor. Reach down and pick up the dumbbell before rowing it up to your lower chest or even further. You should feel your upper back engage as you do this. Lower the weight back down but not to the floor before starting again.
5. Dumbbell Lunge
The dumbbell lunge is an excellent movement for training the entire lower body. However, by adding just one dumbbell, you also train your core through stability and balance.
Hold the dumbbell in one hand and step forward. Lower yourself down until the knee that’s behind you is almost touching the floor. Ideally, you want your front knee over your ankle and your back knee beneath your hip. Push through the heel of your front foot to stand back up. If you want to include more of your core, then you can hold the weight with both hands and add twist left or right as you lower yourself, similar to a Russian twist which we’ll get onto later. This trains the abs and obliques to add an extra degree of difficulty to the movement.
6. Dumbbell Squat
The squat is frequently referred to as the king of lower body exercises, and for good reason, too. Squats are a simple movement which trains your entire lower body to become bigger and stronger. Not being able to use the standard barbell is no excuse to avoid this killer exercise.
With your dumbbell upright, hold the top so that each palm of your hand is resting underneath the circular weight at one of the ends. You can adjust where and how to hold the dumbbell to your needs. Next, fold at the hips and knees simultaneously to bring your pelvis in between your legs in a straight line. Go as low as you can whilst still maintaining a neutral spine. From here, push through your heels to get back into a standing position. You should feel your glutes and the fronts of your thighs both working.
7. Overhead Press
The single arm dumbbell overhead press hits the shoulders, triceps and upper chest whilst also improving your core stability and balance.
Begin in an upright position with your abs and glutes engaged to put you into a strong starting position. With the dumbbell next to one of your shoulders, your wrist should be above your elbow as you extend the dumbbell overhead. Lower the weight back to the starting position before repeating.
8. Russian Twists
We’ve briefly touched upon these when discussing lunges, but done alone, the Russian twist will really challenge your abs and obliques. If you’re looking for a tight tummy or rigid six pack, then try to add to your training.
Start in a similar position to the hip thrust with your bum against the floor and feet flat against the ground. Holding the dumbbell in both hands in front of you, lift your feet off the floor and tilt your torso back so you create a V-shape with your thighs and torso. From here, just twist from side to side.
9. Dumbbell Crunches
Following on from Russian twists, the crunch targets the rectus abdominis more than the obliques. The rectus abdominis is what we frequently refer to as the “six pack” i.e. the section of abdominal muscles on the front of your lower torso.
Begin in the same position as the hip thrust but hold the dumbbell against your chest. In order to increase resistance, you can experiment with a dumbbell and hand position.
10. Uneven Push-Ups
This variation of the humble push-up forces your core to work harder to stabilise you as well as one side of your upper body as it has to go through a longer range of motion, increasing the time it’s under tension.
Place the dumbbell against the floor and enter into a plank position with your legs straight and spine neutral. Grip the dumbbell with one hand and make sure that there’s a straight line from your wrists through your elbows to your shoulders on both sides. From here, lower yourself to the ground and push-back up using your chest, shoulders and triceps. If you find this movement too challenging, you can place your knees against the ground instead of your feet.
Make sure to go through a 5 – 15 minute warm up and cool down before and after the workout.
Complete three sets of 10 – 15 repetitions of the following exercises, resting for two minutes in between each set. Make sure to do all three sets before moving onto the next exercise. If you find that this is too hard, then you can extend the amount of time that you rest or complete less reps. Equally, if you find the workout too easy, then you might want to invest in a heavier dumbbell or complete more reps and sets.
2. Dumbbell Row
3. Bench Press
4. Romanian Deadlift
5. Overhead Press
6. Crunch ( 15 – 20 reps)
1. Dumbbell Lunge
2. Dumbbell Row
4. Hip Thrust
5. Russian Twist (10 -15 reps on each side)
Remember to complete exercise on each side.
There’s no reason why you can’t challenge yourself with only one weight. It all comes down to finding the right movements and putting in the effort. This workout can be done 3 – 4 times per week and should spark your imagination into thinking of some other movements you can try with a single dumbbell.